Last Sunday, I had the delight of joining ~80,000 revelers for the annual Bay to Breakers in San Francisco, CA. This 7.46-mile raging party through the streets of San Francisco bears it all (literally in some cases), making good on the race slogan “show me yours”. It did not disappoint!
I had a special running partner this year – my 21-month old daughter, Sophie. Her vocabulary is quite broad these days, and includes “balloon”, “dance”, “funny”, and “WANT IT!”, so I thought she might be ready for the sights and sounds of B2B. Mommy was out of town visiting friends, but encouraged me to don the Bleeker costume (from the Boston Marathon) once more and go have some fun.
I registered both of us, figuring Sophie might want a race bib for the scrapbook someday. My Dad recently stumbled upon a finisher certificate of mine for the 1979 Governor’s Run in Salem, OR (that would make me 10 years old at the time), complete with my hand-scrawled name in primary penmanship. Seeing it on the garage wall with other race numbers sparks fun memories of running down the streets of the State Capitol wondering if I could make it TWO WHOLE MILES. Especially since it’s right next to the Tahoe Rim Trail 100m race bib!
Sophie was in a great mood, considering I was waking her up at o-dark-thirty to ensure we parked the car at the end with enough time to get to the start. She was very excited to ride the bus, and launched right into “wheels on the bus go round and round” much to the other runners’ delight. The song turned into tears, however, when the bus shook and bounced across the SF hills. Sometimes those lyrics don’t translate well.
We packed into the start corral, where tortillas filled the air (throwing tortillas is one of many bizarre traditions at B2B). We were in the back corral with the walkers, floats, and centipedes (people running as one costume). The costumes were very impressive, from hula skirts to full-on Studio 54 dance platform with cage dancers. Bleeker was never going to stand out in this crowd. Sophie smiled and made friends, and hollered “MINE!” to any balloon that got within reach. The gun went off and the party moved forward!
Sophie smiled ear to ear as she took in all the sights. Her excitement was contagious, and I pulled her out of the stroller so we could watch it together. She clung tight, but kept oohing and aahing. It’s one of the great gifts of parenthood to see the world through a child’s eyes, making even the simple things all new and exciting. She even spotted a woman dressed as the painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Jan Vermeer, and said “Earring!”. I had forgotten this was in one of her favorite picture books, and she loved it!
At mile 1, I strapped her back in and picked up the pace a bit. I realized at a walking pace, we might not make the 11:15am cutoff at mile 6. How about that? Even in a fun run, I have to worry about cutoff times! We took the express lane on the left, passing bands, parties, the famous salmon running in the opposite direction, 13 naked people, a hoard of 20 Elvi (that’s plural for many Elvis), Oktoberfest, Vikings, a pack of pugs, and more. I even ran into a pack of Bleekers protecting their Juno! Great fun.
We took a small break at Hayes Hill (mile 2.5) for grapes, crackers, and water. Sophie loved the “Movin’ On Up” song playing at the top of the hill, and got out to get her groove on for a few minutes. A nice gentleman made her a balloon animal, and she was in heaven. A friend along the way had harassed me a bit for bringing her (“nice, Dunlap…good influence on the kids”), but it was like a circus. What could be bad? Just as the thought ran through my head, a naked man was showing a pack of people why it was important to have a cock ring linked to your Prince Albert hardware...and I mean a FULL demo. I’d show a picture, but that’s porno. The scary kind too. I will have nightmares for sure. ;-P
With Sophie’s eyes averted (phew!), she jumped back in the stroller and we made our way towards Golden Gate park. We saw the most classic drinking booth (see video), and got some shave ice from the Hula Man.
Sophie wasn’t so sure about all the stopping, so I kicked it into gear and ran for 15 minutes. She locked eyes on the big inflatable Southwest Airlines plane and starting screaming “Airpane! Airpane!” at the top of her little lungs. We stopped so she could jump on the plane, play ball with some kids, meet Moose the Great Dane, and roll in the grass. Once she tuckered herself out, she crawled back into the stroller and promptly fell asleep for the rest of the race.
I ran the last couple of miles, and we crossed the finish in 2:49:22, just a few minutes shy of my marathon time from two weeks ago. I figured Sophie could nap in the Beer Garden at Footstock (the end-of-race concert) while Daddy “rehydrated”, but no kids in the Garden this year. So we only stayed for a few minutes and made our way to the Cliff House for views, beer, and French toast. The place was packed with B2B runners doing the same. Gotta carb load, right? Or is that before a race…
Sophie looked out the window at the ocean, pointed, and said “Daddy and Sophie go beach please” while tugging at my hand. Wha? Did I just hear that? I’m not sure what was more shocking – to hear her say a complete sentence like that, or the fact she said “please”. I packed up our stuff, and she pulled me to the beach with great fanfare.
As I watched her kick sand in the air and chase the seagulls, I got a lump in my throat that is becoming all too familiar lately. She is growing up so fast! I am constantly torn between wanting her to stay young and ever-curious, and excited for what she might say and do next as she progresses. On days like today, it feels like each minute is precious. I’m not sure if Sophie will remember any of it, but I have no doubt I will cherish it forever.